Trick or treating has become a cutesy tradition in the U.S. whereby kids (and many not-kids) don costumes and empty buckets knocking on doors to see how much candy they can collect in the short time allotted.  Some places, like where I grew up, assign a “Beggar’s Night” on a day other than Hallowe’en, supposedly for the safety of the little ones.  (With all the evil permeating the world on Hallowe’en night, I guess some powers that be decided to keep the young’uns out of harm’s way.)

What’s been lost is the true meaning behind the tradition in the first place.  The event began as anything but “cute.”  I found a few write-ups around the Web-o-Sphere and provide a sampling below for your entertainment.  The first reference appears to be a simple educational report:

The Celts tried to appease the evil spirits: ghosts, goblins, and demons. Huge “Samhain” bonfires were built to light the way for all the spirits to find their way into the world of the living. They would leave out food, hoping that this would please the spirit world. If they did not leave a thing, then hence, the spirits would play evil “tricks” on the living in that house. The Druids required human sacrifices, they would go door to door asking for the virgin daughters. If this was not obtained at the chosen homes, then a hexagram was painted on the door in blood to show the appointed evil spirits to cause all kinds of evil to fall on the home. In some cases, this even resulted in death.  http://www.rumela.com/events/halloween_origin.htm

Another version, from a page meant to scare the reader into agreeing that anything related to Hallowe’en is evil, goes something like this:

From October 31 to November 2, the Celts celebrated a 48-hour festival, the Vigil of Samhain (pronounced “sow-in”). They believed that Samhain, the pagan lord of the dead, assembled the souls of those who had died during the previous year and decided what form they would take for the next year. The souls would either pass on to human bodies or would be condemned to live within animals (the most evil of the bad souls or spirits would take the form of cats). Hoping to coax Samhain into giving lighter sentences, the Celtic worshippers tried to bribe him with gifts and prayers.  http://www.thercg.org/articles/totuh.html

Even another version, from a site from the Neopagan viewpoint, puts it a slightly different way:

A time when the veil between this world and the next was at its thinnest. The Celts believed that upon death, everyone went to a beautiful place free of hunger, pain and disease. It was called “Tir nan Og”, sometimes translated as “Summerland”. They had no concept of Heaven and Hell like that seen in Christianity and Islam. Many believed that two separate and nearly identical worlds existed. When a person died, they were transferred to the “ghostworld”; when they were born, they were transferred from the ghostworld to the mortal one. “The pagan idea used to be that crucial joints between the seasons opened cracks in the fabric of space-time, allowing contact between the ghostworld and the mortal one.”

The Celts celebrated rituals at this time to make contact with their ancestors who had died before them. This contact was not at all made in an atmosphere of dread, fearing some retribution from the dead. Rather it was done in a spirit of expectation, in the hopes of obtaining guidance from those in the next world. http://www.religioustolerance.org/hallo_np.htm

I’ve tried to provide views from across the spectrum.  Now you can make your own assessment.  Enjoy the season!



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